Widespread confusion on 5-A-DAY, British Nutrition Foundation reveals
13 Jun 2022 --- Adults and children alike are confused over which foods count toward reaching their 5-A-DAY, a survey carried out by the British Nutrition Foundation has revealed.
When conducting the survey, high levels of confusion were found on what foods are included in the 5-A-DAY campaign and, more specifically, what nutrients different foods provide, including protein and fibers.
The 5-A-DAY is a campaign created by the World Health Organization (WHO) to recommend consuming a minimum of 400 g of fruits and vegetables per day.
“Lack of knowledge means people are less empowered to make informed choices, and achieving a healthy diet, with a good balance of the right types of foods, is more difficult if you don’t know which key nutrients the foods that we eat provide,” says Sara Stanner, science director at the British Nutrition Foundation.
“But why is healthy eating so important? If we think about fiber, eating plenty as part of a healthy, balanced diet is linked to a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer,” Stanner undernotes.
“Choosing fiber-rich foods may also help you feel fuller for longer, which can help support weight management. Most people in the UK do not get enough fiber - adults are recommended to have 30 g of fiber each day, but we are currently only eating 19.7 g on average.”
The lack of fiber in diets is not an issue limited to the UK. In France, nearly 90% of adults do not consume the daily recommended fiber level, and similar percentages spread across the European countries.
Knowledge gap found
The study showed that 24% of primary school children and 17% of older children believe that chicken counts toward the 5-A-DAY. Additionally, 19% of children in primary school thought that cheese was counted for in the dietary recommendations.
The survey showed that adults shared similar confusion. In the UK, 38% of the adults in the survey and 23% of older children are aware that carrots contain fibers. Out of all schoolchildren, 24% believe that chicken contains fiber, even though chicken does not contain any fiber at all.
The confusion around nutritions in chicken continued. A higher percentage of secondary school children compared to adults knew that chicken is a source of protein, even though the majority of the participants had the correct knowledge of this. On the contrary, only half of the adults knew about the protein density of chickpeas.
Never tried plants
One-third of adults and more than half of the schoolchildren reported never having tried lentils. For chickpeas, one third of adults and 46% of children never tried them. Kidney beans were consumed to a wider extent, yet 28% of adults and 48% of children never tested them.
This was shown in a wide range of plant foods containing high amounts of fibers and proteins, which are essential nutrients.
“Government advice is for us all to eat more plant-based foods because they’re good for us and the environment. It is concerning that there is confusion across the UK about the nutritional contents of some common foods, including plant-based foods,” says Stanner.
These plant-based foods do not only come with their high nutrition density of fibers and protein but also a low environmental impact and are not too expensive, she explains.
“One portion of pulses even counts toward your 5-A-DAY, yet their nutritional value is often underestimated, and many people do not even think to eat them,” Stanner adds.
Previous studies have shown that chickpeas are good for digestion. Additionally, consuming fibers showed the potential for combating type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
What about food waste?
Among the adults, only 17% claimed to use a compost bin for their food waste, and a quarter use the general waste bin. As for keeping leftovers, only 27% reported freezing food to eat later, and 32% do “what they can” with unused foods, so it doesn't go to waste, while 30% actively search for a recipe suitable for the leftover foods.
To tackle the issue of food waste, smarter methods are needed to manage the supply chain crisis. The response from the industry is there, innovating in technologies and other solutions. However, this is not an issue solvable by the industry alone. A report from the UN showed that 17% of food at the consumer level is going to waste.
The foundation hosts “Healthy Eating Week” starting today, sending the message of “eat well for you and the planet,” with different themes and knowledge areas each day.
“From varying our protein sources, to increasing our fiber intake, to reducing food waste, there’s a wide range of ways people in the UK can adjust their eating habits for the benefit of themselves and the planet,” Stanner concludes.
Edited by Beatrice Wihlander
This feature is provided by FoodIngredientsFirst’s sister website, NutritionInsight.
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